A Working List of Effective Distractions from Reality

Even though it seems like a thousand different things are happening all at once in our already frenzied reality, it can still sometimes feel like there is absolutely nothing to do to distract from the rampant flood of distressing headlines. However, despite the darkness of the times we’re living in, we can still find comfort in the fact that we are combatting this crisis a world where we have seemingly endless access to entertainment through the helpful medium of the Internet. The only problem is that the infinite amount of opportunities for happy, welcome distractions can be overwhelming to the point that it can truly feel like there is nothing to read, watch, or just do whilst we are practicing self-isolation. We get it. Read on for a real, working list of effective distractions and suggestions for what to do when you find yourself wanting to take that second (or third) nap of the day.


1. Movies you wouldn’t normally be able to watch at home now (early releases, online releases, etc.)

    Look on the bright side, instead of having to pay upwards of $40 to watch a movie in a theatre full of strangers with varying degrees of proper theatre etiquette, you now have the ability to stream films that would typically still be on the big screen from the comfort of your couch! Grab some popcorn from your quarantine stockpiles, dim the lights, and give yourself the full movie theatre experience with these early and newly released films:

    • The Invisible Man (iTunes, Amazon Prime Video)
    • The Hunt (iTunes, Amazon Prime Video)
    • Emma (iTunes, Amazon Prime Video)
    • Birds of Prey (iTunes, Amazon Prime Video)
    • Bloodshot (iTunes, Amazon Prime Video, Vudu)
    • Just Mercy (Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, Vudu)
    • Frozen 2 (Disney+)
    • Onward (Disney+)
    2. Movies that you still haven’t checked off your “Watch Before the Oscars” list

      It seems like every year it’s a losing race to see how many Oscar nominated films you can watch before the awards are dealt out and the buzz dies. Whether just to see what all the hype is about for a movie or to evade that ever-pretentious, self-proclaimed movie buff’s aghast exclamation that “You still haven’t seen Parasite yet?” here’s some of the Academy Award nominated movies from this past season that you may want to catch up on to come out of self-quarantine as a film connoisseur yourself (there’s no excuse of having “no time” now):

      • Parasite (Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, YouTube, Vudu)
      • 1917 (Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, Vudu)
      • Ford v Ferrari (Amazon Prime Video, Vudu)
      • Joker (Amazon Prime Video, Vudu, YouTube)
      • Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, Vudu)
      • The Irishman (Netflix)
      • Little Women (Amazon Prime Video, Vudu)
      • Jojo Rabbit (Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, Vudu)
      • Marriage Story (Netflix)
      3. Shows you’ve been seeing all over social media

        You can’t go anywhere online without somebody bringing up Joe Exotic, pod-dating, or the soul-soothing powers of one baby Yoda. Confused? Maybe you should catch up some of the most talked about shows across multiple streaming services that will make you a pop-culture aficionado and give you something to connect through in online conversations. From the mindless and borderline-ridiculous romance of “Love is Blind” to the daring yet adorable adventures of “The Mandalorian” and his adopted child, here’s some shows that you’ve definitively heard of (even just tangentially) but haven’t thought to watch (or rewatch):

        • “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness” (Netflix)
        • “Love is Blind” (Netflix)
        • “Cheer” (Netflix)
        • “You” (Netflix)
        • “I Am Not Okay With This” (Netflix)
        • “The Mandalorian” (Disney+)
        • “Fleabag” (Amazon Prime Video)
        • “Russian Doll” (Netflix)
        • “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” (Amazon Prime Video)
        • “Euphoria” (Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, YouTube, HBO Now/Go, Vudu)
        • “Succession” (Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, YouTube, HBO Now/Go, Vudu)
        1. Shows that ended years ago, but will never truly die in our nostalgic world

        It’s no secret that we live in a singularly nostalgic world. We crave the times of before— the 90s, the 80s, etcetera, etcetera. Maybe not Depression era though. That may hit too close to where we are now. Anyways, when you don’t feel like watching something that will have questions of existentialism and temporality surging through your mind, here’s some oldies but goodies that can get you through the hours and hours where you are you are trying your hardest to avoid the news, social media, and thinking/watching too hard:

        • “The Office” (Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Prime Video, iTunes, Vudu)
        • “Friends” (Amazon Prime Video, iTunes, YouTube, Vudu)
        • “Schitt’s Creek” (Netflix, Hulu, iTunes, YouTube, Amazon Prime Video)
        • “Gilmore Girls” (Netflix, iTunes, YouTube, Amazon Prime Video, Vudu)
        • “The Sopranos” (Hulu, HBO Now/Go, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, iTunes)
        • “The West Wing” (Netflix, YouTube, iTunes, Amazon Prime Video, Vudu)
        • “Lost” (Hulu, YouTube, iTunes, Amazon Prime Video, Vudu)
        • “Mad Men” (Netflix, YouTube, iTunes, Amazon Prime Video, Vudu)
        • “Breaking Bad” (Netflix, YouTube, iTunes, Amazon Prime Video, Vudu)
        1. Mindless vlogs and short blurbs of happiness on YouTube and TikTok

        Okay, so perhaps YouTube and TikTok may seem more suited to a younger generation with significantly shorter attention spans (TikToks can land anywhere between 2 to 60 seconds). But in these extremely stressful and trying times, it can sometimes be beneficial to take advantage of the mindless, easily-digestible content of TikTok’s quick comedy and vibrant dance routines or even just find solidarity in daily vloggers of YouTube filming an inside look on their quotidian lives within their homes. This pandemic is an opportunity to try new things, even new platforms that we may have thought ourselves to be above. Get on there, discover the communal fun of learning a new TikTok dance, watch a YouTuber bake some bread, or just revel in the connectivity and kinetic nature of life continued online.


        1. Books that parallel, yet reframe the pandemic

          During these truly apocalyptic-feeling times, it is no wonder that many people are reaching towards novels such as Max Brooks’ World War Z (also the film, but that’s another story) and Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven which chronicle stories following the spread of pandemics in ways that mirror our own present situation. However, these readings can often cast a dark cloud over an already gloomy situation. If you are looking to possibly reframe the dystopian, post-apocalyptic narrative in a more positive light, perhaps search for novels like Andrew Krivak’s The Bear which has been compared to The Road in setting and circumstance, but has managed to paint the world after the extinction of humans in a peaceful, idyllic hue. You could also immerse yourself in the story of one woman’s endeavor to rest her way to a reset for a year in Ottesa Moshfegh’s My Year of Rest and Relaxation to see how one person would spend their time during self-quarantine for (perhaps ill-advised) self-improvement and even give yourself a sense of optimism about the infinitely better state of your psyche in comparison.

          2. Books that completely transports you from this reality

            Fantasy is a good route to go if you are set on that path of escapism. If you’re still hurting or irrevocably unsatisfied from the end of Game of Thrones last year, perhaps immerse yourself in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series with the extra time you have now. You could also lose yourself (perhaps again) in Tolkien’s works of fantasy in The Hobbit or Lord of the Rings. Books with extremely involved lore such as these series can act as an easy distraction for your brain from the stresses of reality. Who has time to stress over the unknown when you’re busy reading about the Mother of Dragons? If intricate plotlines of fantasy and worlds far away from your own aren’t your thing, perhaps try a blend of magical realism with almost a utopian ending in Exit West by Mohsin Hamid. Staying within a setting free from magic all together but no less capable of transporting your mind and capturing your attention, invest some time in Elena Ferrante’s Neopolitan series as HBO’s TV adaption, “My Brilliant Friend” is set for season 2 in the near-future.

            3. Books that channels your inner-child

              It could also possibly be worth your time during this pandemic to revisit some of the novels that you cherished in your childhood. Times as stressful as these call for a visit to Hogwarts in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. The fact that this is a septology could be a compelling reason to spend your time distracted by worlds you may hold close to your heart and that could thus be extremely comforting in self-quarantine. This could even be a great opportunity to share these books with the persons of younger generations that you may be holing up with (your children, younger siblings, etc.) On the flip side, perhaps this time of self-quarantine could be a chance for you to reread some of those books that they made you read in school that you may have a better appreciation for now that you aren’t forced to read it for a grade (think Hemingway, Orwell, and even Shakespeare) With so many of us using this time for self-reflection and self-improvement, it could be fascinating to read those well-worn texts with new eyes.

              WHAT YOU SHOULD DO:

              1. Stream an online workout

                For the majority of us, working out might not always be a feasible option given our busy work and school schedules. However, with the ample time that we have been presented with in the face of the pandemic, why not make use of thousands of online workout videos to improve your physical health just as much as you can your mental health? Truthfully, incorporating a workout in your daily quarantine schedule can help combat the stress and depression that the pandemic and bring and give you something to do in those transitional hours between work, meals, and bed. If you need motivation to start your workout, watch some workout challenge result videos on influencers such as Chloe Ting’s YouTube channel! Improvement can start here, in your home, with your decision to pull yourself off the couch for at least half an hour and commit yourself to an activity that will do you much more good in the long run.

                2. Learn or perfect your skills in the kitchen

                  Let’s be honest— if it weren’t for the complications and restrictions of the pandemic and self-quarantine, many of us would be relying on eating out for most of our meals. However, with many restaurants closed but for takeout, cooking at home is starting to look like a better and better option. During our regular schedules we may not have always had time for the arts of cuisine, but now that we are stuck doing work in such close quarters with our stovetops perhaps we should take the time to learn how to make a good, hearty meal. Comfort foods are especially welcome at this time and many YouTube videos demonstrate the easiest ways to make fresh bread that will have you wishing you had this much time on your hands when there isn’t a pandemic.

                  3. Start a bullet journal

                    Bullet journals (the diary’s sage, younger cousin) can act as a relaxing activity of quiet meditative planning that will give you a sense of control over what you can control as well as feed your creative spirit. Outlining calendars, keeping sleep charts, and writing down a list of all the movies, books, and TV shows that you are going to watch during the pandemic all while learning to use beautiful typography and aesthetically-pleasing markers can be incredibly soothing and self-centering as you allow yourself to zero-in on one project that you can return to day after day. You probably have a beautiful notebook that you bought for the cover but haven’t yet found a use for. This is a time you’ll truly regret not documenting. Use it now.


                    Honestly and truly, in these already stressful times, we have to allow ourselves to accept that there is nothing more that we can do but continue practicing social distancing and fill in the increased amount of time that we are spending at home with forms of entertainment that we deem worth our while. It is okay to spend a couple of hours on hours watching that feel-good TV show or re-reading a book that you’ve read several times over. Do whatever will buoy you through this pandemic and perhaps also watch, read, and do things that will leave you more immersed in the culture and connectivity of these extremely unique times.

                    April 13, 2020 — Skarlett Blue